Re: Question about "dining clubs"
From: Racheli Gai (
Date: Tue, 17 Sep 2013 08:31:02 -0700 (PDT)
Hi Sharon,
First of all, our choice of night was such that it didn't interfere with nights 
reserved for community meals (actual or potential.)
Secondly, on the issue of exclusion:  Yes, there was a level of exclusion.  But 
exclusion always exists to some extent.  If its rice and beans, those who want 
meat are excluded, and so on.  
I think that what we're talking about isn't exclusion vs. non-exclusion, but 
for different people different kinds of exclusion are acceptable (or not).  For 
example: In my community, for some - meals that are only for people from a 
certain clusters are "ok", but those who choose according to some other 
principle (eg: friendship) aren't.   It seems kind of arbitrary to me. ** 
Thirdly, you point out that (in your view) a certain exclusive eating group 
became a "cabal"*.  (the way you describe it,  BTW, it won't be considered 
exclusive in my community, so definitions, and who gets to decide which 
definitions are acceptable seems an important issue).  Whether it did or 
didn't, I think that it's not out of the question that a sub group uses their 
time together to discuss/do things that interfere with community work.  In our 
case, I think it's utter nonsense.  And at any case, if someone wished to 
assign such an intent (or result - and for it to be a "cabal" it seems to me 
that it would need to be intentional) - one would need to provide some 
evidence, no?  
IF we wish to say that if any sub group in the community that meets regularly, 
for whatever purpose,  creates  interests etc. which are detrimental to 
community health, then the result will have to be that everything is done with 
everyone (or everyone in principle.)   Personally, I didn't sign up for 
something like that, and would not live in a community that forces such 
arrangements on me.   


* I think, BTW, that the word "cabal" is rather offensive to some, myself 
included.  So maybe we should use something else.

**  Here is another example of exclusion:  Let's say a few people who live in a 
community decide to go on an overseas trip together.  How does that feel for 
those who weren't asked to join or can't remotely afford such a thing?  Should 
we say that people shouldn't organize trips together unless they ask everyone?  
And what about the economic exclusion?  Maybe we shouldn't allow expensive 
trips by anyone because it makes those who can't afford them feel bad?  
(I am not saying that a community can't decide to form with a level of 
cohesiveness that would disallow certain practices such as the example above.  
I just don't think cohousing communities (or at least the ones I'm familiar 
with) are based on such principles.

On Sep 17, 2013, at 7:33 AM, Sharon Villines wrote:

> On Sep 17, 2013, at 9:48 AM, Racheli Gai <racheli [at]> 
> wrote:
>> Assuming that community-wide common meals are a benefit for all is assuming 
>> that we're all the same, and that our needs are all the same.  For some, 
>> getting together with whoever shows up is fine.  For others, this isn't the 
>> case, and one of the benefits of cohousing, IMO,  is that it affords other 
>> options.  I can get together with some of the people I really care to hang 
>> out with and have a meal.  Common meals always seemed to be a noisy and 
>> hurried affair to me, and at this point in my life I prefer to hang out with 
>> the people I have deeper relationships with, have real conversations, ...
> The problem, I think, is the on and on with the same people in a place where 
> you are clearly visible or known to be meeting whether it is the common house 
> or not. And that people have to "ask" to join. The idea that they have to 
> ask, already signals an exclusive group. 
> Did you ever send invitations to everyone when there was an opening? If you 
> didn't, that is another signal that some people, at least, are not even 
> invited to join. 
> Exclusion except on the basis of interest is an arrow in the heart of a 
> community.
> We had this problem when our Soup and Simple group started on Monday nights. 
> Even though the group was open to anyone who wanted to sign up for a cook 
> team in the rotation, only those people who could eat the food that the other 
> people cooked--totally high carb--could join. Only those who could eat or 
> cook on Mondays could join. Only those who wanted to accept the terms of the 
> meal could join.
> Because the Monday night dinners existed, all other meals stopped. The people 
> who wanted to cook cooked on Mondays. There was no core enthusiasm left to 
> initiate meals at another time. It was siphoned off.
> The night chosen was also the night almost all of  our teams and the board 
> meet on rotating Mondays. The meal interferes with people being on time for 
> meetings, limits meeting places because the dishwasher running and the people 
> talking in the kitchen make it impossible to meet in a corner of the dining 
> room.
> Then the core group did unintentionally become a "cabal,"  but since they 
> talked together for at least an hour every week, they talked out issues 
> amongst themselves and had common understandings when they worked on teams 
> and in meetings. It was like a single person trying to negotiate with a 
> couple -- it's two against one. In this case 30 against a few. The group 
> reinforces each other's sense of reality. Even the definitions of topic 
> needing discussion.
> I had a heated conversation with a member once who insisted we had discussed 
> an issue in a membership meeting and agreed to a certain action. "WE AGREED!" 
> The topic had never even been on the agenda. He finally realized that the 
> "community meeting" he was remembering was the Monday night dinner. It had 
> become "the" community meeting for a lot of people. He also believed that 
> Membership Meetings were only for actual proposals and decisions. Discussion 
> should happen elsewhere. See any relationship here?
> Over time that group has been smaller and less stable. Not meeting in the 
> summer. A small group in the late spring. Changing members in the winter. So 
> they are less of a defined group and less of a dominate force. 
> I'm sure the members of the group don't see themselves as a group or as a 
> cabal but if it had continued we would have had to do something to change it. 
> That doesn't mean eliminating the group but making some changes. Perhaps 
> having Monday meals only from January to June, or September through November 
> and Jan to May. Or Mondays in the fall and Fridays in the spring. Or low carb 
> in the fall and rice, beans, bread, salad, and sugar in the spring.
> Sharon
> ----
> Sharon Villines
> Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC
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